Monday, December 21, 2015

Guest Post: Bali, Indonesia


Honeymoon in Bali
guest post by Greg Murray
photos by Greg Murray, Natalie Murray, and anonymous

sipping coconut water in Bali

Kuta
The Kuta Angel Hotel was nice, clean, modern/trendyish boutique hotel.  Nothing too crazy or special.  We were only there a night so just went to dinner on the main strip and the beach in the morning.

Nusa Lembongan
We stayed at the Mushroom Beach Garden Rooms.  We didn’t like it there and found ourselves hanging out at the Hai Tide Beach Resort.  We took a motor scooter for half a day ($4) and went to the bridge, which was fun.  Ate at Mama Mia, which was good and quite an experience.  Drive across if you are feeling adventurous.  We also went up to the other part of the island and would recommend searching for a better hotel there and checking out The Deck Cafe Bar, tho that north west strip of beach is a bit more “local.”  We went snorkeling off the north tip of the island which was great--warm water beautiful fish and coral.  From there the capitan took us to the channel in-between the islands, dropped us off, and picked us up a mile downstream.  That was also fantastic, being taken by the current, and a must do.  However the water was cold.

Tegalalang
We stayed at an Airbnb here only for a night and it was a highlight of the trip.  The rice terraces were beautiful, and we hiked through them in the morning.  We drove a scooter an hour up to an outlook of Lake Batur for dinner.  Timing was perfect and though the restaurant we sought was closed, we went next door and had the place to ourselves, as well as a candidate for the best fish I’ve ever eaten.  For a measly 50IDR (about US$4).     
fish dinner in Tegalalang, Bali


Ubud
We stayed right next to the monkey forest at the Pondok Pundi Village Inn.  It was clean but no mosquito nets in the room and lots of mosquitoes.  I stayed up drinking arak (the local alcohol), hunting them all.  We did not get bit that night.  ;)  The monkey forest was fun, and we took our time through it as it is small.  Id recommend the Three Monkeys Cafe.  We found mie goreng (a popular noodle dish) to be our go-to meal, and it was great here, along with a very good burger.
monkey forest in Ubud, Bali




Candidesa
We stayed at an Airbnb here too, but there were a couple “OK” bungalows in this area but don’t know the names.  Otherwise, maybe the Bloo Lagoon hotel a little farther south.  We had dinner at sunset on the beach at Lezat Beach Restaurant.  It was great.  We took a scooter in search of a waterfall, but the waterfall turned out to be a water palace … still cool.  Then we went to the virgin white sand beach.  The beach was nice but kinda a bust for us as we wanted peace and solitude.  Then we went snorkeling at Blood Lagoon.  It was very pretty, and the fish were very friendly.  Then we went off the coast a little bit to some rocks where a turtle hangs out.  The water was deeper and not as colorful, but the water was also rougher and scarier and I loved it.  It was one of my fav snorkeling spots.  And we saw a turtle.   
sunset drinks in Bali


South Kuta
Ayana was beautiful.  The Rock Bar there was great, not your “Bali experience" tho.  But if you are looking for western comfort and instagram famous … this is it.  You will find you need to go to the lobby for internet tho.
hanging in the pool at Avana resort in South Kuta, Bali

 
Rock Bar at Avana resort in South Kuta, Bali


We took the local transportation services that are on every corner for our longer trips.  The prices are set and cheaper than the pesty guys that solicit.  Natalie and I both agreed if we were to do it again, the only way to go would be backpacks and a scooter.  And if we had two kids, we would get two scooters.  If you want luxury, you can find it, but you will have to close your eyes often, especially on the trip from the airport to the hotel.  Natalie left hers open and was concerned for our safety.  For some reason, we didn’t get that memo.  But everyone was so nice and hospitable in the end.  We didn’t use any bug spray or get any inoculations.  The food was surprisingly good.  We had two plates (and a large Bintang beer) made and served by a 12-year-old for 75IDR (about US$6)!  

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Things to Do: Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park/City of Refuge, Honaunau, Big Island, Hawaii


Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park/City of Refuge  In Honaunau, 1 hour south of Kailua-Kona, near Captain Cook, (808) 328-2326 x1702.  7am-15 min. after sunset; visitor center, daily 8:30am-4:30pm.  $5/vehicle.  No pets.  Centuries ago this desolate, exquisitely beautiful spot was a place of refuge for criminals and outcasts escaping punishment or persecution.  Now it offers the chance to learn a little history as you check out exhibits, which include a fishpond, several hale (houses), examples of traditional Hawaiian craftsmanship, and an unmortared stone wall that is 1,000-feet long, 10-feet high, and 17-feet wide.  You might also see a Hawaiian canoe builder in action or view a traditional spear-throwing contest, and do allow time for a game of konane--a checkers-like game played on a stone table that kids enjoy trying out.  Sea turtles are often seen swimming in the bay, and outrigger canoe rides are sometimes available.  

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park/City of Refuge in Honaunau on Big Island, Hawaii

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park/City of Refuge in Honaunau on Big Island, Hawaii

child playing konane checkers in Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park/City of Refuge in Honaunau on Big Island, Hawaii
child playing konane checkers

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Things to Do: Hilo Farmer’s Market, Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii


Hilo Farmers Market  Mamo St./Kamehameha Ave., Hilo, 808-933-1000.  W & Sat, from dawn to “gone,” or 6am-4pm; a smaller market occurs M, Tu, Thur, F, & Sun, 7am-4pm.  You’ll find unusual fruits and vegetables here, including avocados as big as footballs, plus 20 different kinds of Japanese mochi, specialty food items, crafts items, and crates saying ”from California.”  And then there are honey and leis. 

sign at Hilo Farmers Market in Hilo, Hawaii


anthuriums at Hilo Farmer's Market in Hilo, Hawaii


raw honey at Hilo Farmer's Market in Hilo, Hawaii


fresh leis at Hilo Farmer's Market in Hilo, Hawaii

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sights to See: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii


Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden  27-717 Old Mamalahoa Hwy., Papaikou, at Onomea Bay, 8.5 miles north of Hilo, (808) 964-5233.  Daily 9-5.  $15, 6-16 $5.  This spectacular 17-acre garden grows in a natural tropical rainforest and displays more than 2,000 species of tropical flowers and plants.  It is a living museum of tropical and sub-tropical plants, with 80 species of native plants.  Many plants in the collection are now extinct in the wild.  Though it opened in 1984, some coconut palms and mature mango trees are enormous, about 130 to 180 feet tall and more than 100 years old.  The garden is known for its collection of palms (more than 200 varieties), gingers (about 200 varieties--some big and showey, some small and fragrant), and orchids.  You’ll see exotic birds, including macaws, as well as koi.  Kids can expend some energy on paths that follow streams winding through a lush jungle filled with palms and waterfalls.  A scenic trail leads down through a valley, to the ocean, and back.  A small museum in the back of the gift shop displays local artifacts.  Bring drinking water. The water on site is from a catchment system and non-potable. 

ocean view at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden in Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii


red heliconia at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden in Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii
red heliconia

white bat flower at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden in Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii
white bat flower

pink quill bromeliad at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden in Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii
pink quill bromeliad

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, December 11, 2015

Great Sleeps/Good Eats/Things to Do: The Venetian, Las Vegas, Nevada


The Venetian  3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd., (877) 583-6423, (702) 414-1000.  4,028 suites.  The last large themed casino to be built on the Strip, this Italian-themed all-suites hotel complex was built in the 1990s as a romantic gift to the owner’s wife.  It is authentically Italian and now, with its new Palazzo tower, has 7,000 suites--and claims to have more convention space than San Francisco and Los Angeles combined!  And, as is true everywhere, there are suites and then there are SUITES.  In suites here, plenty of marble is used throughout, and the more exclusive suites have high ceilings and a private steam room, sauna, and oversize whirlpool tub.  Some also have a screening room, pool table, walk-in closet, exercise room, and/or grand piano—for which arrangements can be made for someone to come up and play it.  Dropped guest names include George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and George W (he stayed in the Presidential Suite when he was in office).  Butler service is available, as is a private penthouse gaming club.  Ordinary suites begin at $149and are spectacular, too, and each features a sunken living room.  Once “The Phantom of the Opera” musical ran for about 10 years in a showroom modeled after the Paris Opera House.  But times have changed.  Now the draw is live music, and The Judds just opened in that same venue.  Public facilities here include Canyon Ranch--the world’s largest day spa--and an array of big-name restaurants. 

casino entry hall at B&B Ristorante in The Venentian in Las Vegas

guest suite at B&B Ristorante in The Venentian in Las Vegas

guest suite bathroom at B&B Ristorante in The Venentian in Las Vegas

Gondolas  Sun-Thur 10 a.m.-11 p.m., F-Sat 10 a.m.-midnight.  $21.  Gondoliers are very Italian and attentive, and once you are gliding along through a ¼-mile-long replica of Venice’s Grand Canal they will serenade you.  It is hard to believe, but there are two circuits—one inside, one outside—that’s how big The Venetian is! 
 

B&B Ristorante  (702) 266-9977.  When Mario Batalli cooks, people show up.  In droves.  This spot is usually packed to overflowing.  Great wines are stocked from every region in Italy, but a relaxing cocktail can be delightful when you are finally seated.  In my case it was a sweet one--Under the Maple Tree--made with Bulleit bourbon and maple syrup plus lemon and orange juices.  My preset dinner appetizers included a variety of house-cured salami and pickles, grilled octopus with fagioli marinati and spicy limoncello vinaigrette, and an spectacular roasted kabocha squash with burrata and pumpkin-seed pesto.  Whole wheat troffie pasta was perfectly al dente and tossed with butternut squash and more pumpkin-seed pesto.  But I considered the roasted lamb leg with parsnips and purslane so undercooked as to be inedible.  Since we were running late for a show, our vanilla gelati and pear sorbetti dolce was thoughtfully scooped into a paper cup for us to grab and go.

house-cured salami at B&B Ristorante in The Venentian in Las Vegas

house-cured pickles at B&B Ristorante in The Venentian in Las Vegas

roasted kabocha squash with burrata and pumpkin-seed pesto at B&B Ristorante in The Venentian in Las Vegas
roasted kabocha squash with burrata and pumpkin-seed pesto
   
Tao Nightclub  (702) 388-8588.  This hot club is a branch of the NYC hot spot and features a spectacular décor of Buddhas, including one that is 20 feet tall and floats above an infinity pool.  It has VIP booths and is popular with celebrities.  Seductive Asian-themed TAO Beach is an extension of the club.  Downstairs, TAO Asian Bistro is America’s highest grossing and offers everything from Kobe beef to traditional Peking duck.  



 

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Sights to See: 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District, Las Vegas, Nevada


18b, The Las Vegas Arts District  Located north of the Strip and south of the heart of Downtown, the quirky, dynamic Arts District was city-designated 11 years ago, though it began organically before that, and its “18b” name refers to its original 18 designated blocks, which have now expanded.  Approximately 20 antiques stores are also in this area.  Street art includes ever-changing murals that adorn buildings.  First Friday has been going for 13 years and draws a large group each month to enjoy food, performances, and art. 
A guided 18b Arts District Tour is available through Las Vegas Pop Culture Tours.   

living street art in 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District
living street art

Among the stand-out venues are:
Inside Style  1119 South Main St./Charleston, (702) 399-1100.  Across the street from a bail bonds building and Vegas Vape shop, this creative interior design store makes use of the work of artists both local and farther away.  


Inside Style in 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District

Retro Vegas  1131 S. Main St., (702) 384-2700.  Next door, this warehouse antique shop is filled literally to its tin-roof rafters with items such as pink flamingos and colored glass.
Retro Vegas in 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District

Patina  1300 S. Main St., (702) 776-6222.  Across the street and down a block, past the Casa Don Juan Mexican restaurant and popular Velveteen Rabbit bar, this antiques shop specializes in the glamourous Hollywood Regency style and features art, bar wear, furniture, and clothing.  I especially liked the colorful glass and the leopard-covered furniture.  Fragrant soaps from Santa Fe permeate the store, and happy music entertains while you browse.  You can also visit their thriving online shop.
Patrina in 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District


The two complexes that are the glue holding the area together are:
The Arts Factory  Located within a 50-year-old commercial warehouse, this is the geographic and creative center for the area’s exhibits and events.  Many artists have studios here, and some shops sell artworks.
exterior of The Arts Factory in 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District


interior steps of The Arts Factory in 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District


artist's workshop at The Arts Factory in 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District

Art Square  1025 S. First St.  Composed of three remodeled 1950s buildings, this complex has a small black-box theater, an outdoor art garden, and the colorful Latin-influenced Mingo bar-restaurant.
Mingo bar-restaurant at Art Square in 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


Monday, December 7, 2015

Sights to See: Shangri La, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii


Shangri La  4055 Papu Circle, (866) 385-3849, (808) 734-1941.  Tour/van $25.  No children under 12.  Guide:  “Some people write diaries.  Doris Duke built.”  This serene, sensual, exotic, and mysterious 4.9-acre oceanfront estate is situated east of Diamond Head, hidden Islam-style behind a non-descript gate.  Doris Duke and her husband, James Cromwell, lived here from 1912 to 1993.  Duke’s exceptional collection of Islamic art spans the 8th through 20th centuries and is a focal point of the tour.  But you’ll also see a glass wall in the living room that disappears into the basement on an elevator track, verdant gardens, and the couple’s lava rock saltwater pool.

decorative camel twins at entry to Shangri La in Honolulu

exterior of Shangri La in Honolulu

garden path at Shangri La in Honolulu

ocean view from back of Shangri La in Honolulu

bird of paradise flower at Shangri La in Honolulu

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, December 4, 2015

Things to Do: Springs Preserve, Las Vegas, Nevada


Springs Preserve  333 S. Valley View Blvd., 3 miles NW of The Strip, (702) 822-7700.  $18.95, 65+ $17.05, 5-17 $10.95; seasonal butterfly exhibit +$2-$3, under 2 free.  Owned and operated by the Las Vegas Valley Water District, this 180-acre site is built around Las Vegas Springs--the original water source for the town.  The preserve includes desert botanical gardens, museum galleries, an attractive outdoor concert venue, an indoor theater, an historic photo gallery, and almost 3½ miles of picturesque walking trails.  The gardens hold the only complete collection of Mojave cactus and succulents in the world.  A LEED Platinum facility, the preserve displays ways to live comfortably and green in a desert environment.  You’ll see rammed-earth walls, plus the parking area is in reality the reservoir’s roof and the parking area’s roof in turn collects solar energy used to generate power for the entire complex.  The Origen Museum displays a Native American Village, features an awe-inspiring flash flood pulsing through a recreated desert ravine, and additionally has an outdoor animals exhibit with a Gila monster, desert cottontails, and more.  I found  touring the small solar-powered DesertSol house particularly interesting, and kids are sure to enjoy the playground, Butterfly Habitat, and trackless train ride.  There is more, and spontaneous activities and interactive exhibits occur here and there.  Divine Cafe serves refreshing cold drinks and lunch daily, plus brunch on weekends.  

Stratosphere seen from Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Nevada


gardens at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Nevada


turkey wrap at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Nevada
Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sights to See: Mystere, Las Vegas, Nevada


Mystere  At Treasure Island (TI).  $60+.  This was the first Cirque du Soleil production in Las Vegas.  It continues to combine the athleticism, acrobatics, and colorful creative imagery and costumes that we expect from Cirque shows, while thunderous taiko drums set the rhythm and a sweet and funny oversized baby delights as the central character.    

big baby in Mystere at Treasure Island in Las Vegas

taiko drum in Mystere at Treasure Island in Las Vegas

performers in Mystere at Treasure Island in Las Vegas

performers in Mystere at Treasure Island in Las Vegas
 
colorful ending of Mystere at Treasure Island in Las Vegas

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers